Category Archives: books

Black Pulp features Walter Mosley, other black authors

black pulp cover

Book cover illustration by Adam Shaw

Publisher Pro Se Productions, dedicated to the “classic fiction of pulp magazines and adventure tales” and “push[ing] the boundaries of modern genre fiction,” has a new offering: Black Pulp. The new book features black characters in leading roles–a departure from the literary genre, popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Glossy pulp magazines, noted for shocking tales of adventure, mystery, crime, horror and mayhem, rarely featured African American characters or other characters of color, and certainly not in heroic positions. In fact, in a review of the book, Hard-Boiled: Working-Class Readers and Pulp Magazines, Andrew Loman notes the conservative ideology of classic pulp, as well as the genre’s “obvious misogyny, homophobia and racism.”

Novelist Gary Philips, who originated the concept for Black Pulp, says, “While revisionism is not history, as Django Unchained signifies, nonetheless historical matters find their way into popular fiction.  This is certainly the case with new pulp as it handles such issues as race with a modern take, even though stories can be set in a retro context.  Black Pulp then offers exciting tales of derring-do and clear-eyed heroes and heroines of darker hues appealing to all.”

Black Pulp features an essay on “the nature of pulp” literature by award-winning author, Walter Mosley.

I’ve got this waiting on my Kindle and I can’t wait to dig in!

Book Review: Storm Warning by E.A. O’Neal

By Book Review Correspondent Carly Neely

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Storm Warning book cover

How nice is it to read a collection of stories about a Caribbean island and have it not talk about rum punches and idle days spent lounging on a beach in a careless, unblemished paradise? It’s very nice. Truly, it’s my favorite thing about Storm Warning by E.A. O’Neal. I want action, intrigue, and complex character dynamics in every book of fiction that I read. This collection of short stories places the residents of fictitious island of St. Crescens front and center and the grit of their situations is not washed away by a dreamy backdrop. We witness a myriad of individuals struggling to pursue their desires, some resorting to crime, others becoming the victims of it.

Half of the stories are tight slices of storytelling, glancing into lives that are haunted or marred by “something not quite right.” The very first story, “Storm Warning” and later with “The Righteous Ones” treat the reader to that queasy feeling of dread that crime fiction lovers long to feel. It immediately reminded me of the work of Dan Chaon’s short stories, Stay Awake, whose imagery also stayed with me late into the night. I would lay awake restlessly wondering if there was really maliciousness in a person’s face or whether it was a projection of guilt or just a passing shadow which could have explained away and avoided a gruesome fate. Was Shirley’s husband aware of her suspicious activities or was it just the air of tension in a community preparing for a coming storm? “Storm Warning” offers a look into the lengths one may go to pursue a dream while “The Righteous Ones” has an unnerving tale of a man’s missionary service gone awry.

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Book Excerpt: “Seeing Things” from Godless Americana

By Guest Contributor Sikivu Hutchinson

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The two young men of color walk through the gallery transfixed. There is so much to see and so little time to see it in; no docents handy to provide a frame, no earphones to squawk on about context and artist’s intent. The trip from their South L.A. school to the L.A. County Museum of Art (LACMA) in the Miracle Mile section of Wilshire Boulevard is, figuratively, a world away. As the first car-euphoric corridor in Los Angeles, Miracle Mile still retains its sheen. The museum’s multi-million dollar exhibits and au courant architecture showcase the pinnacle of Western culture—from classic to modern to contemporary avant-garde. The wing that the students walk through is the brain child of billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, an ethereally lit sanctuary that brings them face-to-face with artist Glenn Ligon’s anatomy of black otherness. Ligon’s exhibit beckons with written evaluations from his elementary-school teachers. Their comments range from praise to quizzical disappointment. One implies that he is squandering his potential. Another pronounces that he has insufficient “black consciousness.” As records of one student’s arc, they are unremarkable, inviting a voyeurism that only piques interest in the context of the artist’s success. However, as grade-school primers of the genealogy of Ligon’s marked body and, implicitly, that of all black students, they are deeply moving.

In the art gallery, time is suspended. It is crafted as a hermetic space, a rebuke to the outside world where quiet contemplation is a rare commodity, fast becoming the province of the super rich. At this particular exhibit, guards of color stand silently at the ready. There is a black presence stationed in every room, a reminder of the invisibility of people of color in the high-flying corporate art scene. With their stiff uniforms and stoic expressions, the guards both comment on and perform the authority of the museum. They are there and not there, breaking from the tedium of their posts to remind students to put away their cell phones and refrain from taking pictures. They protect the secular sanctity of the gallery space through the veneer of enforcement, adding another layer of seeing and surveillance.

What do the students see in a culture in which they are trained to view art and aesthetics as the province of white geniuses? How do they navigate seeing in a culture in which the vision of white geniuses defines universal standards of beauty, value, goodness, and human worth? How do they learn, as Carter G. Woodson says, to breathe, swallow, and regurgitate the template of white universal subject-hood as sacred creed and covenant? How do they learn—how did they learn—to become blind to themselves, to see themselves as the Other?

The politics of seeing are part of what drives God lust. God provides a blank canvas for all fears, anxieties, hopes, ambitions, and dreams. He/she/it becomes the tabula rasa for the dreamer, the universal fail-safe for the fucked-up, the crushed, the abject, and the abandoned. In an intensely capitalistic, racially segregated culture, God-dreaming is a kind of art-making. God is closely tied to self-making and invention. It’s a realm that offers both the illusion of agency or control and the conceit of subjection.

Ligon’s show includes a re-examination of the infamous Robert Mapplethorpe Black Book exhibit from the 1990s. Photo after photo of naked black men sprawl next to quotes from commentators, critical theorists, and art mavens. The quotes weigh in on the public blasphemy of eroticized black male bodies, musing about whether Mapplethorpe’s images were exploitative. The comments run the gamut from appreciation to outrage, many of them conceding the ambiguity of representation and desire. Interspersed with the provocative poses of the mostly taut, virile young men, Ligon’s arrangement of the quotes underscores the ways in which the black body has always existed as contested space, as politicized. In an era in which mass incarceration and criminalization have become the predominant media for black embodiment, Mapplethorpe’s photographs are even more difficult to view within the lens of aesthetic pleasure. Mapplethorpe’s identity as a prominent white gay male photographer cannot be separated from the photos’ reception. Nor can his identity, power, and privilege be distanced from the tragic downward spiral of his black gay subjects, many of whom died of AIDS. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a black gay photographer gaining intimate access to the lives of white men for a similar photo essay. Heady pronouncements of colorblind equality are even more farcical in the context of the segregated art world, where artists of color are routinely ghettoized into “ethnic” shows. But art-making has an especially critical relationship to knowledge construction and human value. Who has the authority to make art, whose art will be considered as “great,” canonical, or universal is deeply connected to the standards of what is worth being seen.

Glenn Ligon's “Notes on the Margins of the Black Book” (1991-1993), based on photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe. (Photo: International Center of Photography)

Glenn Ligon’s “Notes on the Margins of the Black Book” (1991-1993), based on photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe. (Photo: International Center of Photography)

In the twelve-plus years since Ligon’s original Mapplethorpe exhibit, and fifteen-plus since the book’s publication, the art world template for the white genius as all-seeing and all-powerful has not changed. What has changed during this period is that HIV/AIDS has become a leading cause of death for young African Americans and mass incarceration has been deemed the “New Jim Crow.” Against this backdrop, God-lust amongst African Americans has morphed into a more fevered, strategically public practice. It’s not uncommon for young blacks to retort that some wayward person should get “right with God.” It’s rare to go to a black public event that isn’t kicked-off or concluded with a prayer from a local pastor. On TV shows like CNN’s Black in America: Silicon Valley, scenes of black folk bowing their heads and joining hands in prayer before a stressful event are pro forma. Black NFL players like Kurt Warner and coaches like Tony Dungee routinely attribute their success on the field and in life to God’s co-piloting. Over the past several years some Black churches have even declared Halloween a new “Satanic” ritual, offering their own kid-friendly, fall-themed festivals as suitably God-fearing alternatives. T-shirts and paraphernalia with Scripture and religious references flood the streets in predominantly black communities, where disposable income is an oxymoron for most.

Embracing, invoking, and bowing down to God have become shorthand for achieving upward mobility. In Essence magazine, Tasha Smith, a popular actress and fixture in Tyler Perry films, reflects on her journey to success. This particular actress is habitually cast as the kind of ball-busting Sapphire alpha men love to hate and white women love to fetishize. Smith’s specialty is channeling the hand-on-hip, tell-it-like-it-is, keepin’-it-real “bitch” who is never afraid to slice and dice her man in a high-octane public throwdown. Consequently, the reader is “shocked” to learn that she was once an atheist—frustrated, adrift, and emotionally scarred by a traumatic childhood. It’s implied that her lack of faith was a kind of spiritual albatross. As told to Essence, her subsequent transition to a God-fearing woman of faith hastens her rise to fame, wealth, love, and redemption via that rarefied cultural vehicle—the Tyler Perry film. The profile on the actress assures us that giving one’s life/fate over to God is an authentic rite of passage, a naked reclamation of self in the midst of a cold spiritual wilderness. God enables vision, and, ultimately, upward mobility. Godlessness signifies rudderlessness and absence of self-control, a potentially fatal flaw for a black woman trying to bootstrap to a moral life. Being a “good black woman” is defined by masochism. It is only through the crucible of self-sacrifice, by extending one’s faith until it hurts, that redemption can be achieved.

Witness: an acquaintance experiencing extreme economic hardship pledges to lay her life down to God after an email solicitation yields a gift of $50. The “ask and ye shall receive” regime of the prosperity gospel has become the cult of true blackness. On the surface it’s a rebuke to black invisibility, a bird flip to a dominant culture that revels in the myth of black downward mobility driven by lazy blacks shuffling from government handout to government handout.

If God is Black America’s co-pilot, then what does that say about the landscape of 21st century United States, where black wealth is virtually nonexistent? What does it betray about a country where residential segregation of African Americans and Latinos has become more prevalent now than during the 1980s? It’s tempting for some religious skeptics of color to dismiss these displays as indicative of backward thinking from uneducated black folk. But, as the faith-based pandering of President Obama and other politicians demonstrate, education and religiosity are not mutually exclusive. Just as there is no shortage of storefront churches in poor black communities, there is no shortage of mid-sized to megachurches in middle-to-upper-middle-class black neighborhoods. Faith and religiosity don’t exist in a political, social, or economic vacuum. Nor are they static. One female interviewee from the 2010 gospel documentary Rejoice and Shout acknowledged that Christianity was originally the “white man’s religion” but dismissed the claim that blacks were brainwashed or indoctrinated. The gender pageantry of the Black Church is on vivid display in the grainy archival footage from this fascinating documentary (and document) of black life in the early 20th century. Black women getting the Holy Ghost crowd the church aisles, writhing, gesticulating, and testifying to the Lord’s transfixion. Every now and then the camera captures a swooning male congregant, but, for the most part, the men sit upright and respectable in the pews as the reverends hold sway in the pulpit. It’s implied that performance and possession—the raw abandon of getting the Holy Ghost—are a woman’s medium, a manifestation of their natural sexual otherness, their closer relationship with the body, and, thus, their irrationality. Here, religious performance, the collision between sacred and secular, becomes a kind of artistry. Ecstatic religious expression is portrayed as a powerful device in a social context that does not afford poor black women agency, creativity, or visibility.

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Sikivu Hutchison’s book, “Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels” is now available.

Quoted: On The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The Summer Prince

Cover of Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince

 

In addition to race and class dynamics, other issues from our real-world culture persist in Palmares Três. Even in a city run by women, teen motherhood continues to be stigmatized. One character in the book is the son of a woman who had him when she was 16. Although eighteen years have passed, both the son and mother, who has become a talented and sought-after designer, still face prejudice from those around them. In fact, in a city where people live to age 250, anyone under age 30 are treated with condescension, if not disdain. Enki’s popularity among both young and old people threatens the smooth and unchallenged reign of the Aunties and the Queen. And, with Enki as Summer King, June (and the rest of the city) start to realize that deceit bubbles beneath the beauty of Palmares Três.

So poverty and inequality are not eliminated under matriarchal rule. But Johnson’s matriarchy changes some of the ways people regard sexuality. People love and lust after for whomever they want, regardless of gender. June’s mother was first married to a man. Less than a year after his death, she marries a woman. No one bats an eye except June, who is furious at her mother’s rapid remarriage. At his first public appearance as Summer King, Enki and June’s best friend Gil meet and are immediately smitten. Their romance becomes constant fodder for the gossip feeds, but again no one questions their pairing.

The Summer Prince doesn’t push readers to think about real-world injustices like TankbornPartials orTruancy do. Instead, it was only when I emerged from Johnson’s beautifully written pages that I began to reflect on some of the similarities (and differences) between her world and this one. I can see YA readers, particularly YA girl readers, enjoying The Summer Prince, but it might take some prodding to connect the world and underlying injustices of Palmares Três to real-world issues of race, class, stigma and power.

– “Can a Society Run by Women Still Be a Dystopia?” by Victoria Law via Bitch Magazine

 

June, our heroine, is likably complex. She’s headstrong and confident, frequently referring to herself as “the best artist in Palmares Tres,” but she’s also believable as a slightly naive kid who hasn’t had to look outside the bubble of her privileged life as the stepdaughter of a government official. That life, of squabbling with her mother, working on cheeky performance-art stunts and hanging around with her best friend, Gil, changes dramatically when Gil falls in love with the newly elected Summer King Enki, a young man from the algae-farming slums.

It’s an unexpected twist in a novel full of them. Yes, this is a YA-dystopia-love-triangle story, but how unusual to see the heroine become the third wheel to a sensitively depicted gay relationship. And how deliciously unusual to read a YA dystopia that’s comfortable with ambiguity and nuance. This is a book that doesn’t condescend. Gil, June and Enki find themselves having to tread carefully as they work out their own answers to a host of questions about love, art, technology, tradition — even sex. Slightly bratty teenager June matures noticeably over the course of the narrative, becoming much more understanding of the adults in her life and what drives them. And even though one of the central conflicts in the book is a standard faceoff between the youth of Palmares Tres and the somewhat ossified ruling class, even the villains come off as understandable in the end.

– “Samba, Spiderbots And ‘Summer’ Love In Far-Future Brazil,” by Petra Mayer of NPR

Debbie Reese Takes On Hipster Racism In A Golden Calf In Weetzie Bat

When I was in high school, Weetzie Bat was the underground required reading for girls who wore pilly cardigans and name dropped fanzine editors. For those who read it, it almost so special that we didn’t want to tell anyone else about it. I remember feeling that way a lot actually; holding something so close to my heart that I didn’t want to give it away. It’s because these things had saved me, were saving me, and my biggest fear was that they would gain so much popularity that they’d get co opted by the normal kids and ruined (see “Nirvana”).When you love a book, you don’t just want to read it again, you want to BE it. At least that’s where I go. I didn’t just love Weetzie, I wanted to be her. If Bret Easton Ellis made LA seem like it was all rich kids and gay death human pinwheels, Francesca Lia Block turned the city into a magical punk fairy tale. To be fair, I wanted both versions to exist and sometimes couldn’t decide what I liked better (still feel that way).Weetzie had a boyfriend, My Secret Agent Lover Man, and a gay BFF. They made movies in “Shangri-L.A.” (Hollywood), lived in a cute cottage, and had weird drama that involved sexual trysts, unplanned pregnancies, and gay lovers with AIDS. DREAM LIFE!  Weetzie had bleached blond hair and was probably really thin. In my brain she sort of looked like a young Belinda Carlisle.Who owns the film rights? Does Francesca Lia Block still rule? All these questions and more can be answered on your local Wikipedia page (or by doing more research).LYMI, Lesley

The many covers of Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block, via. thereal90s.tumblr.com

By Guest Contributor Debbie Reese*

Years ago I started reading Weetzie Bat but put it down, in part, because of these passages in the first few pages of the first chapter (Note: To write this post, I read an e-book that doesn’t provide page numbers):

Sometimes she wore Levi’s with white-suede fringe sewn down the legs and a feathered Indian headdress… 

“She” is Weetzie Bat. Her friend, Dirk, who has “chiseled” features compliments her outfit:

Weetzie was wearing her feathered headdress and her moccasins and a pink fringed mini dress.

Weetzie replies:

“Thanks. I made it,” she said, snapping her strawberry bubble gum. “I’m into Indians,” she said. “They were here first and we treated them like shit.” 

“Yeah,” Dirk said, touching his Mohawk.

Weetzie Bat was published in 1989 and won several awards. Reading it today, what comes to mind is the hipster culture of the last few years and its appropriation of Native culture. While writing up this review, I did an image search of “Weetzie Bat.” In the grid of images I got (using Google image search), the first image in the second row I got is this one:

The source for the photo is a Weetzie Bat blog post at an art blog, A Beautiful Party. Dated September 16, 2010, the post is about a screenplay of Weetzie Bat and the photo is of someone playing the part of Weetzie Bat. If I didn’t know it was from Weetzie Bat, I would have thought, “Dang hipsters!”, because I’ve seen a lot of photos of hipsters in headdresses, feathered earrings, fringed clothing, or moccasins. Reading Weetzie Bat now, I wonder if it might have played a role in the 1990s emergence of hipsters and their appropriation of Native culture.

What, I wonder, was Block thinking about when she brought Native culture into her book? What did it mean to her or Weetzie Bat to say “I’m into Indians”?!

In my read of Weetzie Bat there is nothing to suggest that Block knew she was, in effect, having her characters embrace stereotypical “knowledge” about American Indians. (What she does with Jamaican’s gives me pause, too, but I’ll stay on topic.)

In the chapter titled “Jah-Love,” Weetzie meets the guy who will be her boyfriend. His name is My Secret Agent Lover Man (quirky names are everywhere in the book). He makes films of her doing things, like “having a pow-wow.” We aren’t told what she was doing, so we don’t know “having a pow-wow” means. That chapter closes with this:

And so Weetzie and My Secret Agent Lover Man and Dirk and Duck and Slinkster Dog and Fifi’s canaries lived happily ever after in their silly-sand-topped house in the land of skating hamburgers and flying toupees and Jah-Love blonde Indians.

Duck is Dirk’s boyfriend. Slinkster Dog is Weetzie’s dog. “Jah-Love” is, I think, short for Jamaica love but I don’t know what to make of it beyond that. There are, of course, blonde Indians, but the ones in Weetzie Bat are playing Indian–and doing it in stereotypical ways.

Early in the chapter “Weetzie Wants a Baby,” Weetzie, My Secret Agent Lover Man, Dirk, and Duck have finished their third film. It is called Coyote. In it, Weetzie is

a rancher’s daughter who falls in love with a young Indian named Coyote and ends up helping him defend his land against her father and the rest of the town. They had filmed Coyote on an Indian reservation in New Mexico. Weetzie grew her hair out, and she wore Levi’s and snaky cowboy boots and turquoise. Dirt and Duck played her angry brothers…

It is no surprise that the film makes some money for them. In the story–as in real life–white people defending and rescuing Indians from whites is a sure-fire hit.

Weetzie, as the chapter title tells us, wants a baby. My Secret Agent Lover Man isn’t at all interested in having a baby. He thinks the world is too messed up to bring a child into. While he’s away for a few weeks, Weetzie, Dirk, and Duck decide they want a baby together. They climb into bed together, and Weetzie ends up pregnant. My Secret Agent Lover Man returns, isn’t happy with her decision to get pregnant, and leaves. When the baby is born, Weetzie, Dirt, and Duck decide to name the baby “Cherokee.” There’s no explanation for why they choose Cherokee. All we know is that they considered these names: Sweet, Fifi, Duckling, Hamachi, Teddi, and Lambie.

At the end of the chapter, My Secret Agent Lover Man comes back. He gazes at Cherokee and asks who her father is. Weetzie says that she’s got high cheekbones like Dirk, and blonde hair like Duck, but that her eyes and lips are like his.

Ah, yes. high cheekbones like Dirk. Remember—he’s the guy with the Mohawk.

The last line in the chapter is:

Cherokee looked like a three-dad baby, like a peach, like a tiny moccasin, like a girl love-warrior who would grow up to wear feathers and run swift and silent through the L.A. canyons.

What does a tiny moccasin look like when you’re talking about a baby?! I know the book was/is much loved but–the stereotypical othering aside–the style doesn’t work for me.

In the chapter, “Chapter: Shangri-L.A.,” My Secret Agent Lover Man is making another movie. This one is called Shangri-L.A. Weetzie stars in it. She wears strapless dresses and rhinestones. And,

She made fringed baby clothes and feathered headdresses for Cherokee…

Sheesh! Now there’s headdresses for this baby girl?!

They can’t figure out an ending for the movie, so My Secret Agent Lover Man suggests Weetzie visit her dad in New York to see if he has any ideas. While there, he takes them shopping and buys Cherokee a Pink Panther doll at F.A.O. Schwarz.

If you’re buying a doll at F.A.O. Schwarz—well, if you’re even inside that store, you’re of a certain income level. Even though Weetzie’s source of money is never mentioned, the things they do suggests there’s plenty of it.

While in NY, Weetzie thinks her dad isn’t well. Soon after Weetzie goes back to L.A., he dies, and Weetzie struggles with her grief:

Grief is not something you know if you grow up wearing feathers with a Charlie Chaplin boyfriend, a love-child papoose, a witch baby, a Dirk and a Duck, a Slinkster Dog, and a movie to dance in.

Wearing feathers. That’s what Weetzie does. Nowhere do we get any sense that she (or Block) know much about the many distinctions amongst Native peoples. With the use of “papoose” we see more of that ignorance. Papoose is the word for baby in one language. It is not the Indian word for papoose. With over 500 federally recognized Native Nations, there are hundreds of languages, too. The Cherokee word for “baby”, by the way, is not “papoose.”

Cat Yampbell, in “Judging a Book by Its Cover: Publishing Trends in Young Adult Literature” (The Lion and the Unicorn, 29(3)) says:

The text of Weetzie Bat celebrates those who are torn from society, individuals who find each other and find happiness outside of the box that society defines as the norm.

Michael Cart, in “What a Wonderful World: Notes on the Evolution of GLBTQ Literature for Young Adults” (The ALAN Review, 31(2)), calls it a classic of gay fiction, and says:

its largehearted embrace of every aspect of the workings of the human heart, it demonstrates, with art and innovation, that love is love, regardless of what society chooses to label it.

Though I’ve not done an exhaustive look, I’m unable (thus far) to find any critical essays in which the stereotyping of American Indians is discussed. The book is much celebrated for its affirmation of people who are “outside the box” and/or gay, but I wouldn’t hand it to a Native child who was outside the norm or gay. I can’t elevate one part of who they are and slam another part of their identity at the same time.

Granted, some Native readers would breeze past it and shrug it off, but not all would do that, and I wonder, too, about the readers (like Yampbell? Cart?) who didn’t comment on the stereotyping. Did they not see it because it reflects their “knowledge” of American Indians? Or, did they deem that content insignificant? And what does it mean to decide that one culture is insignificant?

Thinking about those questions is ironic, given what Weetzie said at the top of the story. “I’m into Indians. They were here first and we treated them like shit.” Does Block realize that she’s doing the same thing?

Honoring or being “into” anyone in a superficial way is, in my view, treating them like shit because it is lazy. It allows a feel-good moment to stand in for real learning, real understanding, and meaningful action that would make the world we all live in, a better world.

In doing the research for this post, I read that Block has a new book out–a prequel to Weetzie Bat. I’ll pick it up next time I’m at the library.

*Debbie Reese continues to write on the Francesca Lia Block series in her essays, “Indian American” in Francesca Lia Block’s PINK SMOG and A Native Perspective on Francesa Lia Block’s CHEROKEE BAT AND THE GOAT GUYS.

On Lean-ing In

by Latoya Peterson

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Sheryl Sandberg currently owns the news cycle. All we’ve heard for weeks are critiques of her new book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. Any possible angle about the book has been covered (see here, here, here, here, here, and criticism of the criticism)–except the most obvious one. While many of Sandberg’s critics point to the failure to engage with class as a key failing of the book, most of the coverage focuses on Sandberg herself. And while much has been made about whether Sandberg is too privileged to accurately shed light on the lives of all kinds of women, the voices of women across race and class lines are once again erased from the conversation.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to explore the topics in the book. We will host perspectives on Lean In, but also why women of color leave corporate environments in favor of forging our own paths in entrepreneurship. And we’ll look at what happens when Leaning In just isn’t an option.

We’ve asked Farai Chideya, Tami Winfrey Harris, Christina Xu, Adria Richards, Carolyn Edgar, Kishwer Vikaas, Andreana Clay, Flavia Dzodan, and many others to weigh in with stories, essays, and interviews that will be published here over the next two weeks, so watch this space.

Related:

Is Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” The Next Great Feminist Manifesto? [Ms.]
The TechCrunch ‘Lean In’ Roundtable, Part 1: Controversy, Fear, And How To Fight It [TechCrunch]
‘Lean in’? For Millennials, the question is what are we leaning toward [MHP]

Earlier:

Women of Color and Wealth Part 1, The Scope of the Problem;
2, Looking at the Wealth Gap; 3, Starting Points and Class Jumping; 4, Measuring the Intangibles; 5, Looking at Outliers and Outsiders; 5.5, Consumption and the Pressure to Shop

Meanwhile On TumblR: Whitewashing Urban Fantasy And Anti-Asian Racism In Porn And Personal-Care Products

By Andrea Plaid

Two form of entertainment with passionate defenders garnered some great critiques that drew quite a bit of Tumblr attention this week, starting with Chronicles of Harriet’s Balogun spot-on post on the white-washing of urban fantasy:

Maurice Broaddus' King's Justice. Cover art by Steven Stone.  Via yetistomper.blogspot.com

From Maurice Broaddus’ King’s Justice. Cover art by Steven Stone. Via yetistomper.blogspot.com.

Come on, y’all…if you write a story and set it in a place like Broaddus’ Indianapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, London, or Las Vegas, basic demographic research will indicate the presence of people of color. To read and enjoy Urban Fantasy, I am expected to just accept that Black people don’t exist? You get the side-eye for that one.

Whether or not you like Urban Fantasy, the fact of the matter is that this subgenre of Fantasy has had an immense and global impact on people through literature, television and film.

It is because of this impact that we cannot ignore the messages that Urban Fantasy brings. Each time an author of this subgenre decides to tell a story, instead of working so hard to erase people of color out of existence, they should work just as hard to erase the problems that plague our society. And fanboys…do not say that writers should not have to be political; that they should be free to write merely to entertain. Every statement we make is political. Every sentence we write is potentially life-changing for someone. Such is the power of the word.

You cannot truly change culture without literature. We can pass a thousand laws saying that racism and sexism are wrong. We can make a thousand impassioned speeches to rouse the marginalized masses; but if everyone returns home after those speeches and sits down to read the latest installment of Twilight, or watch the next episode of The Vampire Diaries and their fictional worlds in which those same marginalized masses barely even exist – then how much change can truly be affected?

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Video: Kicking Off Our New Year With Some Junot Diaz

As Latoya mentioned at the time, we dealt with not only the holidays but some technical glitches to close out the year. Those are in the past now, thank goodness (and some folks who offered their help).

We’ll be rolling out new content throughout the week–expect a Django double-feature on Wednesday–but to get us started, check out this Moyers & Company interview with Junot Díaz, in which he not only revisits many of the themes of his keynote speech at Facing Race, but also touches on the choices in Star Wars that resonated with his immigrant experience and his wishes for the next four years of the Obama administration. A full transcript can be found here, but a small excerpt of the conversation is under the cut.
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